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Meet the Araguaian Boto, the first species of river dolphin discovered in nearly a century.
Scientists are always discovering new species — around 15,000 per year — and you can read all about the highlights of 2013 here. Today, we learned about a new species that's promising to be a highlight of 2014.
A team of scientists from the Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil have discovered a new species of freshwater river dolphin in the Amazon, the BBC reports. The small group of dolphins was living in the Araguaian basin, where they were assumed to be Amazon river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) that had broken off from the larger population.
Not so, the scientists reported in the journal Plos One. DNA tests showed that the population of dolphins were genetically distinct from their dolphin cousins and that the species likely diverged more than two million years ago.
River dolphins are extremely rare, and the Araguaian Boto is the first new species to be discovered since 1918, when scientists found the Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) in China.
The Yangtze river dolphin became extinct in 2006, and the Araguaian Boto population faces its own threats. The scientists who discovered the new dolphin recommended that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classify the new species as "vulnerable."
The world is so cool.